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Marketing art

State, local programs to offer
support to regional artisans

Call issued for local artists
to join regional online database

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(June 2008) – Numerous initiatives at the local, regional and statewide levels have begun aggressive campaigns to help artisans in the region unite and market their wares.
Eric Freeman, Indiana Artisan Development Project Manager, was scheduled to meet with artisans at 6 p.m. May 27 at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center to discuss the launch of the Indiana Artisan Development Project, which will support and promote Hoosier artisans and handmade products. The project is a joint venture between the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Indiana Arts Commission.
“I have two goals for Madison; one is simply to continue the conversation that’s going on around the state about what artisans need in order to grow their businesses,” said Freeman in a late May interview.

Eric Freeman

Eric Freeman

“My other goal is to explain the program to a group broader than just artisans. Nurturing the businesses of local artisans is local economic development, it creates tourism opportunities, it impacts commercial districts and it promotes collaborative efforts that leverage individual operations for the good of everyone – the artisan, the city, everyone.”
All Madison area artisans, including food products producers, and retail shop owners involved in arts-related businesses, are invited and encouraged to attend.
The goals of the project include raising awareness about the availability of hand-crafted and value-added food products made in Indiana; providing artisans, particularly those in rural areas, with access to entrepreneurial support; providing grant funding for artisan business development education and networking; promoting artisan trail development and retail opportunities; and developing branding for Indiana-made goods. Program initiatives are aimed at attracting in- and out-of-state visitors to individual artisan sites and arts-concentrated areas in Indiana.
At this point, Freeman said the state has had a very successful launch. “We have more than 4,000 artisans in our database, including folks who create art of all kinds, as well as those who produce locally made value-added foods,” he said. “Indiana has a great tradition of both arts and foods, and this program is serving as a way to bring them together and create strong momentum that will develop into a brand.”
Work is still ongoing to create the unified brand and logo for the state project. Freeman said four logos and name options are being tested now in two markets: one audience is visitors who have traveled to Indiana within the last 12 months and the other audience is artisans living in Indiana.
“A research firm is talking with both audiences and asking several questions to help project planners better understand what brand Indiana has now, what strong assets the state has, and what image and name represent that brand, and those assets, the best,” he said.
The statewide project is not the only program working to create economic development tools for artisans and retailers. In April, the “By Hoosier Hands” online database on the Ohio River Scenic Byways website, www.ohioriverscenicroute.org, issued a call for area artists to submit applications to be included in the searchable database. The Ohio River Scenic Byways project developed several years ago through a Federal Highways Administration grant.
The program, which will eventually include the creation of numerous artisan trails throughout the area, has compiled a list of Southern Indiana artists that is available on their website. At this time, only three area artisans are included in the database. However, Linda Lytle, Byway Marketing Committee Chairman and Executive Director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she hopes more artisans in the area will soon be included.
“The ‘By Hoosier Hands’ database is a wonderful tool to bring artisans, retailers and visitors together,” she said. Visitors to the website can search by geographic location for studios or retail shops or search for particular mediums throughout the region. “We have so many talented artisans working and living in our area, and the database will help travelers plan visits to include stops at many of our arts-concentrated areas,” said Lytle.
One of those arts-concentrated areas will be Madison, Ind.’s new Artisan Gallery, located at 325 West Main St. The new artisan center will feature fine quality, handcrafted products from across the region.
Bob Maile, one of the founders of the gallery and owner of Madison Table and Light, believes the online database will indirectly help the Artisan Gallery.
“Artisans are just not getting the information they need about what is out there and available to help them market their wares,” he said. “The database will help us find some of those artisans.”
Bob Saueressig, one of the three Madison artists listed on the Ohio River Scenic Byways database, is also a co-founder of the Artisan Gallery. “I certainly believe the databases of both the state and the regional projects will be an asset to local artisans,” he said.
Maile and Saueressig have been in contact with Freeman about the Artisan Gallery in Madison. Freeman has been supportive of the new center.
“The concept is a good one, and Madison will benefit from it,” Freeman said. “Using locally created arts as a draw is a model several cities in Indiana have used successfully. Madison, and the broader Jefferson County area, already has so much that attracts visitors that what Maile and Saueressig are creating simply adds to the reasons to visit and stay longer in the area.”

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